Maryland Squeaks Past Virginia; Look To Become Bowl Eligible

By John Langley @Langley486

Virginia has been considered the team to beat up on in the ACC so far in the 2013 season, but the Maryland Terrapins made it difficult, barely getting by the Cavaliers by a score of 27-26.

In the waning moments of the game, all hope looked lost for the Terps, as they had struggled to maintain long-lasting drives into the fourth quarter. Just when all had seemed lost, quarterback Caleb Rowe, filling in for the injured CJ Brown, heaved a 47 yard pass down the field to Deon Long in double coverage. In an ideal world, this pass would be picked off easily, but in the world of football, where the unlikely becomes more and more likely with each game, Long went up and snagged the pass, setting the offense up with first-and-goal inside of the ten yard line. Rowe would then complete a touchdown pass to tight end Dave Stinebaugh, which ultimately proved to be the difference.

This game was far from over though, as the Cavaliers had one last push in them. The Cavs offense charged down the field to put their kicker into field goal range, only to see him miss the kick, leading to a heartbreaking loss.

In case you can’t tell, this is a game the Terps had no business winning. The Cavaliers ran the ball extremely effectively, with a solid dose of safe passes, leading to easy third down conversions. Again, we revisit the ideal world concept, where all things work out perfectly. Virginia, by all rights, should have won this game with ease. They did all of the right things to win the ballgame.

There is only one problem with this: football is the most imperfect sport. Teams find ways to win games they have no business winning. In the case of the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, imperfect, but perfect enough, would be the way to describe their game.

Here are a few things that need improvement heading forward for the Terps, as they enter the teeth of conference play.

1. Consistent push up front on defense.

The front seven has been a big strength of the Maryland football team. This is no secret, with their high numbers in sacks and runs stopped for short gains. The concerning part is what happened Saturday, in a game where stopping the run could have been the deciding factor in a close game versus a blowout.

If Maryland stops the run effectively, this game may have not been close. The big runs by Kevin Parks and Khalek Sheppard made life easier for their quarterback , David Watford, allowing him to make easy passes that resulted in first downs.

The old saying for an offense is “stay on schedule.” Basically, this means don’t get caught in third-and-long situations. The way to avoid these situations is by running the ball effectively, allowing the pressure to be taken off of the quarterback. On Saturday, the Virginia Cavaliers did this, and if the Terps want to take pressure off of their offense, they must force more third-and-long situations.

2. Who takes over for Matt Robinson?

For those who don’t know much about Matt Robinson, here is a brief overview. Robinson played safety for the Terps in the 2012 season, and while he had some bright spots, he often struggled to play the position. This season, defensive coordinator Brian Stewart decided to move him up to the outside linebacker position, where they could get the biggest benefit from his athleticism.

The move paid off early in the season. Robinson used his athletic ability to stay with tight ends and spread out to cover wide receivers when needed. The luxury of having a third safety in the game who can tackle in run support proved to be a smart move by Stewart.

Unfortunately for the Terps, Robinson appears to be down for the season, yet another blow to an already depleted defense. the big question is who takes the role? Alex Twine has been the man for the job so far, but his pass defense is sub-par to say the least.

The outside linebackers are primarily pass rushers, so the consensus is that they wouldn’t do any better in pass defense.

Some have speculated they could bring a guy like Anthony Nixon, also a safety, into the box to help out, but the issue with this is the fact that Nixon isn’t very big, and won’t help much in run support.

The solution? Keep going with Twine. His run defense helps dramatically, while you can find ways to cover the tight end elsewhere.

3. Sustaining drives must improve.

The Terps offense has shown that it is capable of racking up yards in a quick fashion, but they have struggled to sustain drives for an extended period of time over the last few games.

Granted, in two of those games, they were without their starting quarterback, CJ Brown, for the majority of the time, but the fact still remains that the drives cannot fizzle out so quickly. This tires out a depleted defense, and doesn’t help put points on the board to make up for it.

Brown will return this week to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, so the running game should receive a boost, even though it has been a strength, which will set up the passing game. This is the week to look and see if the Terps can sustain drives and help out the defense.

 

At 5-1, the Terps can become bowl-eligible for the first time in three seasons on Saturday. With a program that is moving to the Big Ten, this is a way to lure in more recruits of higher caliber, and to put a stamp on their final season in the ACC. The loss to Florida State was rough a couple of weeks ago, but that is in the rearview mirror as far as Randy Edsall is concerned. The growth moving forward will be the key to building for the future.